Dr. Design – Backend, Frontend, Menus and More

Phew, last week had us dealing with some rather cancerous IIS issues, and this week we’ll delve a little deeper into this complex realm. Perhaps a Server Vaccine would be useful… Quick, send your questions in now before the editor rewrites my opener!

Split Up Long Input Forms

Dr. Design, How do sites breakup and spread a long user input form over several pages (continue…>>) with the submit button on the last page? Jeff

Jeff, as I’m sure you’re aware, doing this type of work requires server-side processing (ASP/PHP/CGI/etc) of some sort. I’ll leave it to you to pick which language you use, but no matter which you choose, the general process goes something like this:

  1. Have your first page submit to your second page and label the submit button like this: <input type="submit" name="submit" value="Continue >>>">
  2. Have your second page collect the info from the first page, making sure it’s valid data (and generate an error that prompts the user for more information if it isn’t)
  3. Have your second page submit to your third page, just like your first did
  4. Lather, rinse, repeat!

Essentially every page but the first one first gathers and validates the data (first name is required, age must be a number, etc.). It then lets the user fill out the information for that page, which then submits to the next one. Generally the final page will verify that all the data is valid, and then put it into a database (or email it to a user, or start the StalkerBot, etc.).

IIS, ColdFusion Server, and Multiple Languages

Hey Doc, I have IIS 5.1 installed with ColdFusion Server 5 for running ASP and CFM, but I also have the need to process PHP scripts. My knowledge of Webservers is limited, but I know that PHP runs on Apache. Is there any way I can get all three of these powerful server-side scripting languages to be processed locally on my machine? Thanks in advance, Alexander

Sure Alexander, this is entirely possible, as long as you’ve been allocated more than 1 IP address. The reason for this is that different Web servers cannot "listen" to the same port, as they will conflict. You’d simply need to assign IIS to listen to one IP, and ColdFusion Server to listen to another one. To add PHP into the mix I’d suggest you use the PHP module for IIS as you probably don’t want to throw a third Web server into the mix.

Handy Menu Tools

Hi Dr. Design, I’ve seen your site and I liked it very much. I’ve been a Web Designer for the last 2 years, and even though I’ve tried many times, I can’t find any extension for DHTML POP menus. Can I use a time line for this type of menu, or should I follow only DHTML (and if so, how?)? Pramod

Pramod, I assume you want to have a pop-up menu system in either Flash or DHTML and are wondering how to do both. GuiStuff have tools for these very things, though you may need to register to use some of them.

PHP or ASP?

Dr. Design, I’m trying to figure out whether I should use PHP or ASP on my site. Which is better? — from Susie

Susie, this age-old debate is nearly as intense as the Macintosh vs PC battle and the answer often comes down to personal preference. That said, PHP and ASP do have distinct advantages and disadvantages which may help make up your mind. Kevin Yank wrote an excellent article on choosing a server-side language and these are some excerpts to help you on your way!

PHP

Advantages:

  • Fairly easy to learn, especially for developers with C/C++, Java, or Perl experience
  • Active user community willing to lend you a hand getting started
  • Everything’s built right into the language
  • Cross-platform

Disadvantages:

This language was designed to be programmer-friendly, which unfortunately makes it a little less friendly to non-programmers.

ASP

Advantages:

  • Fairly easy to learn, though programming is required
  • Built into Windows 2000 Server — no installation headaches
  • Professional support available

Disadvantages:

  • It’s not free (unless you’re already using a Windows server)
  • If you’re used to C-style syntax (shared by C/C++, Java, Perl, PHP, etc.), you may find the idiosyncrasies of VBScript difficult to come to grips with

…be sure to check out the full article for more, Susie!

That’s it folks! And don’t forget, if you’re having any problems design-wise, I’m here to help. For a full diagnosis and effective treatment of your design ailments, drop me a line!

Until next week,
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Dr. Design

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